February 4, 2014 by jonmillymiles
How weird is this next post going to be?
For this module we will be designing a realistic old lady following the full design process, which of course begins with research. Our brief is simple:
“A games company need a character developer for the following game idea: A disabled old lady is being harassed by the youths on the corner of her street – she devises ways to seeks revenge. This game takes place in a mundane suburb somewhere in the UK. The character must be believable.”
My journey to meet Emily’s old lady begins with a couple of men:
So I began looking at old vengeful people – they’re not that hard to find in all honesty – and Harry popped up on the TV. The film is OK, but then this is not a review, I’m more interested in the character and what makes him tick, what makes him snap and how he goes about revenge despite being frail and past it.
The first thing that strikes me is Harry’s history: he’s an ex-Royal Marine, a veteran of the troubles in Northern Ireland and so he knows how to fight and shoot and interrogate people. The military train soldiers so that reactions to certain situations become automatic: correctly aiming a weapon, fighting at close quarters and hand to hand combat are all situations when trained cold instinct is required to prevent the soldier from dying. This is what makes Harry so dangerous. Coupled with his frailty the arrogance of the younger thugs gets the better of them: they think he’s past it – and, to some extent, he is.
Harry has put this past behind him. Like so many soldiers who have faced combat he would rather remember the good times and spend a quiet meaningful life visiting his wife and playing chess with his friend than dwell on the horrors of combat. This is the first element of his world that is shattered in the film as his wife dies following complications in hospital. Harry is struck by grief and she is laid to rest next to their daughter. Soon after his best friend, Len is killed by a gang of local thugs who are beginning to take over the estate. Harry is plunged deeper into despair, but being a proud and good man he does not seek revenge.
It is only when Harry, having thoroughly drowned his sorrows, is attacked at knife point that his past kicks in. In his inebriated state Harry lacks the faculties to reason with the would be assailant and when he lunges Harry instinctively reacts swiftly dispatching of the foe. For Harry, this is the turning point, he chooses to take on the gang one small group at a time using his frailty as a ruse to get close to them. Ultimately this frailty nearly kills him when chasing a thug and waking up in hospital with an undiagnosed case of emphysema.
Ultimately Harry overcomes. But I have a problem – while the film portrays an elderly person exacting revenge on a gang of thugs it is both predictable and unsuitable for my character. After all, you don’t see many old ladies that have seen combat in the Royal Marines. Similarly, the idea of a veteran/spy/assassin is quite derivative and what I need to come up with is someone who is interesting and relatively believable.
What I can take from Harry is that dignity and pride that he shows throughout as he battles with his past. That grit of having overcome a harder life than that which the youth of today face and the very real grief that a person suffers when they endure a loss.
Another bloke I’m afraid… and a serving soldier in the Vietnam War. John Kelly is not just any soldier, but a relatively young soldier in the Special Operations Group with demolitions training, close quarter battle training and loads other military skills that may make him seem somewhat out-of-place in a section about an old woman.
However, in the story he takes on a gang of drug dealers in revenge for killing a girl that he had rescued. So again, vengeance is the motive and a gang of thugs are the adversaries. But the reason why I have used this as a piece of research is the way that John studies his enemies: he pretends to be a vagrant and conducts his own covert operation monitoring the gang and learning their hierarchy and behaviour. He even uses this disguise to enable him to get close enough to various gang member and carry out stealthy kills which begins to spark fear and paranoia amongst the gang members.
It would be silly, again, to place an old lady within this context, however the nature of the way that John Kelly behaves gathering intelligence and carrying out quiet, psychologically effective attacks are points that can be drawn on for inspiration and applied to an alternative, more believable context.